Under the Covers: Satisfied Mind

by oz on July 15, 2008

Jeff Buckley

“Satisfied Mind” is one of the finest songs ever written.‚  I was first introduced to the song in college after becoming a Jeff Buckley fan. I listened to Grace religiously then purchased the two-disc set, Sketches For My Sweetheart the Drunk. I must have listened to the demos found on that album hundreds of times, clinging to what might have been from Jeff Buckley had he not tragically passed away at the young age of 31. Although “Satisfied Mind” has been covered by many, Buckley’s version on Sketches is the most haunting. Jeff Buckley died by accidental drowning in the Wolf River Harbor outside of Memphis on May 29th, 1997.

Porter Wagoner

The song was originally written by Red Hayes and Jack Rhodes and, during an interview, Red discussed the origin of the song:

“The song came from my mother. Everything in the song are things I heard her say over the years. I put a lot of thought into the song before I came up with the title. One day my father-in-law asked me who I thought the richest man in the world was, and I mentioned some names. He said, ‘You’re wrong, it is the man with a satisfied mind.’ It has been done a lot in churches. I came out of the Opry one night and a church service was going on nearby. The first thing I hear was the congregation singing ‘Satisfied Mind.’ I got down on my knees.”

Underappreciated but still legendary country singer, Porter Wagoner, recorded the song and it became a #1 hit in 1955.‚  Wagoner died in Nashville on October 28, 2007 of lung cancer.

johnny cash

Johnny Cash recorded “Satisfied Mind,” produced by Rick Rubin.‚  It can be found on Kill Bill: Volume 2 Soundtrack, which is unfortunate. It would have been a perfect fit on any of his American Recordings, especially alongside his cover of Trent Reznor’s “Hurt.” Johnny Cash died on May 15th, 2003.

Bob DylanJonathan Richman

Bob Dylan’s cover of “Satisfied Mind” can be found on Saved and Jonathan Richman (you may remember him from There’s Something About Mary) covered the song for his 1990 release Jonathan Goes Country.

It’s been covered by others, including Lucinda Williams, but these were my favorites.‚  Jeff Buckley’s rendition is the standout for me and always gives me chills.‚  The song serves as a premonition of his tragic destiny and the solo electric, bluesy guitar, accompanied by his stunning vocals are just plain eerie to me. It’s a rough demo and if you listen closely, you’ll even hear him clear his throat before the first verse and just after he starts singing.

“Satisfied Mind” is a simple tune with a powerful message that should resonate with everyone.‚  I try to listen once a month, just to keep life in perspective. Let’s pray that Porter, Johnny and Jeff were fortunate enough to leave this old world just like the song says.

Jeff Buckley – Satisfied Mind

Porter Wagoner – Satisfied Mind

Johnny Cash – Satisfied Mind

Bob Dylan – Satisfied Mind

Jonathan Richman – Satisfied Mind

Jeff Buckley – Satisfied Mind (Live)


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Adrian July 15, 2008 at 8:44 am

“I listened to Grace religiously”

In all sincerity, that’s a nice turn of phrase…

Steve Shirk July 15, 2008 at 10:10 am

This was a great set of songs to start my day with…thanks, Oz.

stephen July 15, 2008 at 11:37 am

Gram Parsons! International Submarine Band.

peter August 11, 2008 at 2:11 pm

The Ben Harper version with the blind boys of alabama is a particular favourite of mine!

strajnic May 24, 2009 at 5:20 pm

The Walkabouts version is my favourite!

stewart July 23, 2009 at 5:19 pm

hey what about tim hardin’s beautiful version…..

duna December 2, 2010 at 8:14 am

I think you must hear the great version of the wonderful Ella Fitzgerald,
maybe she reflects the spirit of the song, my opinion. Pardon my English.

Tim Hughes August 23, 2012 at 9:47 am

I’m surprised not to see any mention of Mahalia Jackson’s version, especially because Buckley’s vocal is a near-perfect duplication of her performance (as near as two people with such different voices can be). There’s also an Ella Fitzgerald version from 1955.

Tammy Hayes August 24, 2018 at 8:12 am

I think the original is the very best of all. It was put out on Starday records sang by Joe Red Hayes the writer of the song. Red recorded it first, Jean Shepherd was next followed by Red Foley then Porter Wagner’s version was recorded. Sheperd, Foley and Wagner all recorded within a few weeks of each other

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